I spent the Spring of 2019 studying abroad in Granada, Spain, and my time was made immeasurably better by my homestay. Soon after settling into the apartment I’d be living in for four months, I discovered that every fear I had of living with a host family turned out to be unfounded. My host mom was absolutely incredible, and I quickly grew to love her more than I had expected. Living alongside me with this host family was Lucy, a classmate from my college back home who I hadn’t known well before arriving in Spain but with whom I developed a deep friendship during our time as roommates. Lucy was there when I first arrived in Spain, and her presence is what kept me from falling apart that first night in a strange new place surrounded by people who didn’t speak English. However, my host mom was kind, thoughtful and so very welcoming, and I quickly became comfortable with her, despite the language barrier.
As the weeks progressed, I began to fall in love with Spain. Carmen, my host mom, knew everything about Granada. Lucy and I would ask her about the best places to visit, and she loved to give us advice on anything and everything. The amount of pride Carmen took in her host mother duties was astounding; she’d been doing it for about 20 years and had seen every kind of student, it seemed. She never failed to cook more than enough food for the both of us, and it was always delicious. She’d make sure to learn what we liked and didn’t like and adjust the meals accordingly. The apartment was always clean, and she did our laundry every week. Her years of experience had taught her much about hosting foreign students, and it showed. Carmen understood better than we did the cultural differences we were facing, and she never put pressure on us to understand or conform to customs with which we were unfamiliar.
My host siblings were all grown, married, and moved out, but they would visit Carmen regularly. Carmen’s husband, Paco, had suffered from a brain injury a few years ago and was not very responsive, so her time was almost entirely devoted to caring for us and for Paco. Of course, I spent most of my time out traveling, or just exploring the city, but I also truly enjoyed spending time with Carmen. There was an enormous collection of movies at the apartment, and she loved to watch the classics. I’d often join her, and she’d put on English subtitles for me. As I became more familiar with the language, I would speak with Carmen more and more; she was always willing to engage in conversation and was consistently patient with my painfully slow speech. We would laugh together at my hilarious grasp of the language.
On my last day, Carmen was her usual accommodating self, even making lunch a couple hours early so that I could eat before my flight. I was all packed and ready to go, and I felt exactly as I had almost three years prior when I left for my freshman year of college. Carmen had become the perfect host mother for me. I was sad to leave her and Paco. My time abroad would not have been nearly as wonderful if I hadn’t had the homestay experience that she provided. If I ever get the chance to visit Spain again, her home will be the first place I visit.
Gethsemane Bray is a CEA alumna who studied abroad in Granada, Spain, during Spring 2019. She is currently a student at Covenant College.
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